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History at Our House Reviews

This program is an audio-based curriculum that is presented either as downloadable mp3s or in conference calls. The curriculum offers comprehensive program in ancient, European and American history from 4th-12th grade. There are no texts, but periodically, the instruction is augmented by maps, artwork and projects. The cost runs from $20 a month for the mp3s to $75 for unlimited phone-in classes.

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  1. History at Our House Review by Flora
    Pros: great teacher, great curriculum, lots of student involvement
    Cons: none

    Grades Used: 5th

    History at our House is a fabulous homeschool history program; participating in it has transformed our homeschool experience in many good ways, not the least of which being our daughter’s growing knowledge and understanding of human history. Beyond this, our daughter has grown simply as a student overall as a result of this wonderful class experience.
    Mr. Powell is a fantastic teacher, the kind of teacher who manages to be strict and capable, yet fun and engaging all at the same time.
    He has a way of commanding respect from the students while also showing them a good time that we all know is the mark of a really good teacher.

    Some details: The program takes place daily 4 days per week in a live online forum, with class ranging from 30 to 40 minutes long. Students are expected to arrive to class 5 minutes early. And in general…they do!
    The online forum allows students to listen to Mr, Powell, view various maps, charts, images etc., and interact through chat and also answer questions with their voice. The class is highly interactive with Mr. Powell striking what I find to be a great balance between pushing forward learning of information, while also encouraging the children to explore the ideas being discussed from their own perspectives.
    Mr. Powell always responds to their answers in ways that applauds what they know, while also encourages them to improve the way they answer questions, something which is another reason I have come to highly regard him as a teacher.
    He accomplishes this by his comments to their answers orally in class. He also periodically has them write paragraphs about current topics in class, followed up by a group discussion of the writing and how each sentence within it could be strengthened. His systematic methods of improving their self expression are very solid and effective, in our experience. Recently he has also added a separate writing class which offers more of this type of work.

    The classes are all recorded, so if a child has to miss class they can easily make it up by listening to a recording. Mr. Powell also has a separate less expensive offering for participating just by listening to recordings. In a large family or a family on a tight budget, with even a modicum of parent involvement, I think this could also be a great way to be a part of this learning experience that he provides. While we are only truly familiar with the Elementary Level classes, I can say with confidence that clearly Mr. Powell knows his subject matter on a level that would be dynamic for a student of any age. Also, in our particular class, the Lower and Upper Elementary students study together, yet have different take home tests.
    It is my understanding that the courses run in a three-year cycle, with each of the following topics studied for one year: Ancient History, European History, American History. I believe that each year’s topic can be studied and then re-studied at the appropriate grade level for any child joining the program at any point in their student life up through high school.

    Another aspect of Mr. Powell’s teaching that we adore is the way he frames the study of history itself: He began the year with a timeline that places the kids and our time and place here in our lives at one end of the timeline, pointing out to them that our view of history is always coming from our own perspective. He spoke about the relevance of history to life today, promoting the notion of the value of how examining the ways humans have lived in the past can really inform and also serves as foundation for how we live today. He manages to make all of this graspable at the Elementary School Level in a way that truly lights a fire for learning history in the students. He then consistently returns to this concept throughout the studies during the year, continually reconnecting the students with the concept of themselves as a relevant part of a relevant history. Fantastic!

    The coursework itself is generally classical in nature but with Mr. Powell’s creative and smart learning tools applied throughout the program. We in our home do not teach classically across our curriculum but find that Mr. Powell’s approach makes classical learning….fun! And while his program has the strengths of a Classical approach, he manages to also have some creative methods that make the whole thing less cut and dry and far more creative than what some of us may think of when we think of Classical learning. It is secular but…I don’t think it would be offensive to a family of any religion. Our family keeps a tradition and we don’t find any challenge with participating. Mr. Powell simply brings to life the ways and times of various historic cultures and governments. Rather than make moral judgements about religion, he simply explores the ways of understanding and responding to the world that different cultures have promoted and expressed. He focuses more on what has influenced modern life than on promoting any one perspective of right and wrong, although of course basic human and modern Western understanding of being a good person are present in his lectures. Mr. Powell deftly helps the kids follow a trail of where the ways of being in other cultures have led that culture. I would say that a Christian family or family from any tradition that lives a religion but does not need religious studies to frame all their curriculum would find a great learning home in Mr. Powell’s classes.

    Mr. Powell uses a system of something he calls anchor facts, which I find to be a brilliant way to connect the different times and places of study, as well as to help a student build some detailed awareness of the facts of history. These anchor facts are dates and times of different important happenings and students are expected to place learning within an understanding of these facts, as well as grow to memorize them. The class is a great balance between some memorization and lots of understanding of the general spirit of various events. And of course all of this comes back to the most oft highlighted anchor fact of all, the fact that we are here in Western society in our current year, learning from our own perspective. Again, another way that he connects and reconnects the kids to the course of study.

    Another creative and wonderful part of this program is the weekly class on History thru Art. Such fun! And again, so educational in more whole and well rounded ways. Each week the kids look at a piece of art that reflects a certain historical event from the time period being studied. After first giving them a chance to express their own initial reactions to the piece, he then leads them on a pictorial treasure hunt through the piece to try as a group to deduce what exactly is going on in the scene which they view together. They examine how color, facial expression, body language, ritual objects, composition etc. reveal truths about the story being told in the painting. Over the course of two weeks of doing this with each painting, they come by the end to create as a group a paragraph describing what they believe to be the painting’s story and message. They also come up with fun titles for the painting that reflect their discovered awareness of what the painting is all about. Sometimes Mr. Powell then reveals the real title and author etc. of the painting: sometimes not. And you can bet, when he does not reveal that our daughter goes searching online during her free time to try to find out! The way this art process enriches the student experience is tremendous. Again, he makes history fun and interesting. He also introduces Art History as a course of study in a way that is dynamically attached to the rest of the history study, something which to me shows how deeply he has considered the opportunity he has with these students to expand them as general students. How often can a kid at this age have art so deeply embedded in their study of days of old? Fantastic. And he also again offers the kids of sense of their own self expression as they learn and a sense of the importance of themselves as the learner in the study process. This class also reinforces a sense of community in the class and a lightness in being together, that to me is truly a masterful use of this type of online technology.

    A handful of times throughout the year Mr. Powell hosts tests where the students are expected to fill in about 4 pages of test material on the current topic. They are expected to know anchor facts from throughout the year, as well as have an understanding of the basic concepts and events that relate to the most recent area of study. Again, here Mr. Powell has a unique and wonderful test prep method through which he leads the kids. Prior to the actual test, the students all fill out a set of test preparation sheets, which are similar to the actual test. They fill out these sheets open book and are expected to research the answers such that their answers are full and complete. He then hosts a class during which they go over all the answers and again, true to his teaching style throughout, the class discusses how answers can be correct and even more correct and thorough. They go through each answer that is good and make it better. In this way, the students prepare for the closed book test by practice with both the information and also the art of how to share what you know in a strong way. Again, this is yet another skill that goes well beyond the study of history and into the study of how to be a good student in general. The tests themselves are then administered at home, with an answer and grading key provided for parents to review and grade. I am sure there are some families that choose not to do the closed book tests, if that is their preference. He does not make a big deal out of tests or grades etc. in the classroom experience for the kids and really leaves this part of the curriculum supported but separate and up to the individual participating families to enact in their own way.

    Mr. Powell is one of those rare teachers who manages to be fun and warm, while also extremely effective in getting students to learn. Our daughter has not only learned a great deal about history, she has learned about learning. She has learned good study habits. She has learned some time management skills. And on top of all of this she is engaged with the class experience in a way that brings her a sense of pride in herself as a student, a sense of connection to other homeschoolers around the country and the globe, and a real connection with another adult besides her parents in her homeschool learning process. Our family regularly has discussions in our free time about interesting topics from history or that spin off from her study of history in this class. Our daughter has grown as a learner and writer. She has grown in her ability to prepare for and take tests. And she has grown to have a sense of the value of history, in a culture and time when many students fail to make this connection in their minds. If only I could have studied history this way when I was coming up!
    The enthusiasm for history that Mr. Powell has ignited in our daughter has been infectious and affecting our whole family! And the growth of her enthusiasm about herself as a student and a homeschool student, as well as the growth in her study habits, has taken enormous pressure off of her homeschool parents and replaced it with a clear slate for doing what we really want to do with our homeschool time with her, which is teach and explore and learn together in joy.

    As you can tell, we highly recommend History at Our House.

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